A Halifax woman is steadfast in her commitment to resolving a significant bill she received from Halifax Water.
Allie Fineberg says in her 25 years of living in her Halifax home, she’s never encountered any issues with the utility and her daily water consumption didn’t greatly fluctuate.
She doesn’t own a washer and dryer, washes her dishes by hand, and lives alone.
This is why she says she was shocked to receive a bill for $2,526.04.
“I was told that on Oct. 26 to Dec. 13, my regular consumption of water had gone from 125 litres to almost 10,000. I was shocked,” Fineberg said.
Fineberg says that according to Halifax Water, the smart meter indicated that her usage had significantly increased over a period of several weeks.
“To put this in context, they are saying that I went through a swimming pool full of water a day for seven weeks and didn’t notice,” she said.
Halifax Water stands by the technology the smart meter uses to determine usage.
“The meter won’t register unless the water is actually passing through the meter,” said James Campbell, communications and public relations manager with the regional water commission.
“So, the meter can’t run on its own and needs that water passing through it. It’s called a positive displacement meter,”
Campbell says thousands of smart meters were brought into service by the utility in 2017. As of November 2020, customers can now sign up for a feature called Customer Connect, where they can monitor their daily usage.
That feature wasn’t available when Fineberg was hit with her hefty bill.
She says it wasn’t until after the bill was already processed that Halifax Water contacted her to bring the significant increase to her attention. She says shortly after, her regular daily usage resumed without any issues.
She says she’s been searching for answers ever since.
“They are told that the smart meter doesn’t make mistakes and it’s like gospel to them,” she said.
Fineberg escalated her concerns to the utility and an investigation followed.
Campbell says Halifax Water, a third-party dispute resolution officer, and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board found no issues.
“It was found by all three parties that the meter was operating as it should, or there was no indication that it wasn’t operating as it should and that Halifax Water followed all its rules and regulations, and those are what we’re bound by,” he said.
Fineberg isn’t stopping at their findings. She’s researching instances in which smart meters have generated faulty readings and hopes the greater public takes note of her story.
“I want to reach as many people as possible because after I’ve had at least a half a dozen people contact me, I know for a fact I’m not alone,” Fineberg said.